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BUSINESS TRAVEL 36 THERE IS nothing like the turn of the year to focus the mind on what is important in the coming months. And 2017 looks set to be an important one for Manchester Airport - and, as a result, the region - for a number of reasons. Firstly, there are a number of important new routes set to launch, the first of which is Virgin Atlantic’s service to San Francisco, which will start at the end of March. San Francisco is obviously a really popular leisure destination but this route is also a really important one in terms of the boost it will deliver to businesses across the North, particularly those operating in the tech sector. There are numerous examples of businesses based in Greater Manchester with operations in Northern California that will benefit from the time and cost savings a direct service will deliver. At the same time, tech businesses seeking VC funding are particularly excited by the prospect of Silicon Valley investors now having a direct link to the North, hopefully leading to an uptick in the number of businesses in this part of the world securing backing. It is examples like this that illustrate just how important international connectivity is to economic growth and that leads me to another reason why 2017 is an important one for Manchester Airport. The seemingly never ending debate surrounding a new runway in the South East won’t have passed you by and I think we are all pleased a decision SOARING SUCCESS Ken O’Toole – CEO, Manchester Airport Looks back on 2016 and ahead to the rest of this year has finally been made. For far too long the minds of ministers were occupied with this narrow question - effectively Heathrow vs Gatwick - when it came to the world of aviation. But, in 2017, the Government has said it will begin the process of drafting a new Aviation Strategy White Paper. This will effectively be the UK’s aviation policy for the next decade and it is the first time the process has been carried out in a meaningful way since 2003. It is vital, not just to Manchester Airport, not just to Greater Manchester and not just to the North, but to the whole of the UK that the Government does not squander the opportunity to outline how we can make the best of our airports to drive growth and international competitiveness. We need an Aviation Strategy that, for example, outlines the economic benefits that would be derived from making best use of Manchester Airport’s existing two runways and growing our passenger numbers from 25m to 55m. We need an Aviation Strategy that identifies the levers that can be pulled to get us there as quickly as possible, such as investment in world-class road and rail networks that connect the towns and cities of the North to its major international gateway, as well as reform of aviation taxes and a Brexit negotiation strategy that has the importance of aviation to economic growth at its heart. At illustrated by the example I set out earlier, it is clear that no new national Industrial Strategy or vision for a Northern Powerhouse will succeed without strong international connectivity. So, I urge the Chamber and its membership to join this discussion during the course of the year and I’m sure you’ll hear from me again on this subject. The start of the 2017 is also a great time to reflect on the year just gone and one that was an historic year for Manchester Airport, one that saw a number of significant milestones achieved. It saw us welcome more than 25.6 million passengers through our three terminals. This is an additional two million passengers from 2015 and an 11% rise. Passing 25 million passengers for the first time in our 78 year history is a major success for us and takes us into a new tier of airport peers. We now sit proudly amongst the likes of Munich, Barcelona and Copenhagen as one of the top 25 busiest airports in Europe. It was also pleasing to see the continued development of the airport’s route network. After years of hard work to secure the route our first ever direct scheduled service to Beijing took off in June. The four times a week service with Hainan Airlines is the only direct flight from the UK to mainland China outside of London. The route has gone from strength to strength over the first six months and is proving hugely popular with business and leisure passengers alike. The feedback we’ve had from the business community has been hugely encouraging. Those who have used it have commented on the great service on board and also the benefits the direct flight has brought in terms of time savings. We’ve also had various reports from businesses across the North that have seen a steady increase in the number of Chinese visitors since the route launched. We have also worked with Red Lantern, the Chinese digital agency, to launch Weibo and WeChat, the Chinese social media channels, to better communicate with the masses of passengers from China. Last year was also a big one for US routes, with three new services starting. In May, Thomas Cook Airlines launched direct services to Boston and Los Angeles and in October Singapore Airlines started its flights to Houston. The USA is a market that continues to grow. Last year nearly 1.6 million people chose to fly direct from Manchester to the USA – an increase of 12% on 2015. With direct flights to New York, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami, Orlando and Philadelphia we offer the widest selection of US routes outside of London FEATURE


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